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Discerning the truth about Jesus is not as straight-forward a process as we might hope. Our natural tendency is to study the four Gospels and draw conclusions from the information we glean from these. The challenge we encounter here is that the Gospels were not written from an historical, biographical perspective. They were produced by evangelists who portrayed Jesus in a manner fitting to their own theological narratives.
Unfortunately, we do not have a Gospel according to Jesus himself. If ever we were fortunate enough to find such a document, I believe it would rattle the very foundations of both the traditional and the New Thought understanding of who and what this man was.
Was Jesus God, or was he a man? This is the question countless theologians have grappled with over the ages. If he is to have any value to us, we must start with the understanding that Jesus was a man. Was he a man with extraordinary powers? Again, if he is to have any value to us, we must concur with him that the things he did we can do as well, and greater things.
But what are these things? Do we aspire to walk on water, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, or to magically produce abundance in the face of lack? We refer to him as Master, as Wayshower, as Savior. But what did he master? What way did he show? From what type of bondage does he offer salvation?
We find keys to these questions throughout the Gospels, but they are like a treasure hidden in a field. We find a man confronted with all the familiar challenges of having a body, yet who spoke of a truth that would make us free. I believe Jesus would redirect our attention away from himself, to this truth of which he spoke. I believe he would invite us all to join him in the understanding that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, that the very door to freedom that we seek stands open, fully accessible, and awaiting our recognition.
Behind every desire, whether it’s health, supply, or relationship related, the two conditions we seek are freedom and peace. Unfortunately, we often fail to experience either because we make both contingent on the achievement of some other thing. I’ll be free when I make that last payment. I’ll be free when I ditch this job and get a better one. I’ll find peace when I meet my soulmate, or when the world starts getting along.
When Jesus spoke of the truth that sets us free, and a peace beyond that which the world offers, he was articulating a principle of the complete soul. The soul is always free and at peace. We may argue that we are shaken to our core, but we’re really saying we’ve been shaken to our center of focus on the more surface values of the self-image. We’re imprisoned by the fear of losing something that is empowering, not to the soul, but to the self-image.
The soul is not threatened. The soul has no need of money, a healthy body, or the companionship of another. Remembering this, we move from the life and death struggle of the self-image to our free and peaceful center. We find our true point of strength. We also discover the straightest, clearest path to resolving these surface ripples that we mistakenly believe have the power to rob us of our freedom and destroy our peace.
Sound impractical? It’s not. I was recently confronted with a situation that, at first, appeared to have the power to enslave me in doubt and fear and rob me of my peace. I have been at this juncture many times and I have observed the futility of succumbing to the appearance. However, in every case I have eventually rediscovered my point of strength, my soul, and I have worked through each situation to a successful conclusion. This time I started at the soul level, holding my peace from the strength and freedom of my soul.
The valley of the shadow of death, those seeming dark moments in life, are never experienced at the soul level. Only the senses-driven self-image makes this plunge. It’s not a requirement, it’s only a really bad habit. The self-image has created a list of required items for freedom and peace. When these are threatened, our spiritual ideals fly out the window. We then compound the problem by calling these inner skirmishes lessons for the soul. But it’s not the soul that’s in need of learning. It’s the self-image trying to imitate the soul that keeps affirming this spiritual insult.
We cannot teach the self-image how to be free and peaceful. We can use the challenge before us now to remind ourselves that any fear we may feel is but an indication that we are not consciously centered in the soul. We were not given a spirit of fear. Nothing in the world is greater than the eternal core of our being. Freedom and peace are the present and unchanging condition of the soul. We can keep telling ourselves we have much to learn, or we can move again to that all-knowing center of power that is our soul.
Most of us would like to hide the fact that we’re dissatisfied at the soul level, but privately, we do well to sit up and take notice.
Dissatisfaction is the heart telling the head that it knows something that the head is missing. The heart is the soul, which impresses through the intuition. The head is the self-image, which is all about catering to the fact-hungry intellect.
This week I was talking to a new friend who observed: “So much of what I’m hearing through so-called truth teachers seems contrived and shallow.”
“That’s because they’re ‘parroting’ something they’ve heard from someone else,” I said, “not something they’ve discovered themselves.”
“Okay. I’ll get there someday,” he said
“You’re already there,” I said. “Otherwise, you couldn’t recognize the ‘contrived and shallow’ thing.”
Eyebrows raised. Skepticism filled the face I was looking at. I’ve grown accustomed to that look.
We don’t trust ourselves. Someone or something “out there” is the authority that will satisfy our need to know. But what, exactly, is driving this need to know?
One person keeps sending me quotes from A Course in Miracles, obviously hoping to enlighten me with ideas that did not originate with her. Only God knows where these ideas came from. I’ve had others remind me of Unity’s basic teachings, which I once agreed to represent verbatim, but now, not so much.
The soul is not confined to any system. What is meaningful to you on your spiritual birthday – that discovery you made that changed the course of your thinking, your very life – is but the tip of the iceberg of the full truth. But this awakening was your soul standing at the finish line, calling you forth, beckoning you to leave your old ways and set out on a line of thought that resonated with what your soul already knew to be true.
What appears to be the joy of discovery is really the satisfaction of recovery. You are recovering the truth that has been strangled by incessant body maintenance, cultural compliance, wandering in a world that believes its highest good comes packaged in some form of matter, title, or accomplishment. Despite the heavy weight of these influences, you have always known the truth when you hear it. You have the ears to hear and the eyes to see. This is not some frail, half-baked entity struggling to make itself known. It is your soul, the most powerful force in your life that will not let you rest or wander past some imagined point of no return.
We sell ourselves short by thinking our inspiration comes from others. These only confirm what we already know. They just had the courage to say it. Our timidity does not diminish this robust, inner voice that called long before we answered. We could not honor this “prophet” from our own country, for we’ve been trained to think that the highest is not the nearest but the farthest, somewhere over that distant horizon we never quite reach.
A sincere inquiry into the headwaters of dissatisfaction will lead you, not to that ever-growing list of things you do not have, but to that which you already have but insist on ignoring. Every moment you cast your net into the sea and gather fish of every kind. From these you sort the good from the unusable, the true from the false. Credit yourself for knowing the difference.
You’re not simply adding to a stockpile of accumulated ideas you cling to because they make you feel good. You are choosing from that very self that is already complete, and whose sole priority has always been to express this completeness through all that concerns you.
We acknowledge there is a gap between where we are in understanding and where we want to be. How do we close this gap? The soul evolutionist says we do things like study, learn from our mistakes, and we try to be more loving. In other words, we seek to acquire something in knowledge and behavior we do not presently possess.
In contrast, the one who grasps the completeness of the soul understands we are already all that we believe we lack. Closing the gap does not involve the acquisition of something we do not have. It involves the letting go of the false sense of self that we are attempting to improve, appease, and satisfy.
The motive behind each of these approaches is exactly the opposite. The soul evolutionist seeks to acquire while the one who understands the soul’s completeness engages in the release of false beliefs. The treasure hunter seeks a fortune they do not have. One who finds the treasure engages in recovery of the fortune that is already theirs.
The Complete Soul treats the terms Christ and soul as synonymous. I think it’s safe to say that most people treat these as two different things. Spiritual growth, they assume, is the process of making the soul more Christ-like. Words are powerful influencers, and I belive this one throws up a major blockage in our thinking.
To the soul evolutionist, Christ represents a foreign object, an ideal that may be achievable – some day in the future. They can easily say, I am the soul, but saying I am the Christ sticks in their throat. Yet until they can say this, their so-called spiritual path will look more like a treadmill.
I suggest removing this term from our spiriutal vocabulary, at least until we understand Christ and soul are exactly the same. As we read in the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, ‘When you make the two into one, you will become children of Adam, and when you say, ‘Mountain, move from here!’ it will move” (#106). Making these two terms one moves mountains of misunderstanding. No one on the spiritual path is obligated to apply Christian terms to their own process of soul recovery. Each must come to understand that we stand on our own holy ground, that our relationship with the Infinite is truly our own.
The spiritual community consists of two sectors: There are those who are seeking and there are those who have found. The seeking sector is, by far, the largest. Those who have found have always been a minority. These are the teachers. These teachers consistently say that that which one seeks is within, it’s here now, and it’s you. The seeker, on the other hand, consistently says, Yes, I get it. I love hearing this. And some day I’ll get there.
When the object of our search becomes the thing we already are at the deepest level, when these two become one, we’ll see the mountain move.
I was talking to a friend the other day who had asked a question I get frequently: “What makes you think the soul isn’t evolving? Aren’t the advances in medicine, science, and technology evidence that we’re in the midst of a spiritual renaissance? Meditation has become widely accepted and people seem to be moving from dogmatic religion to a more spiritual approach to life. Aren’t these all hopeful signs?”
I responded that it was obvious we were making advances in all these fields, but these are examples of intellectual, not spiritual evolution. It’s also true that we hear more people touting a spiritual rather than religious leaning, but in my observation, much of this quest should still be classified as an exercise in spiritual intellectualism.
The spiritual dimension is self-existent, changeless, it does not evolve. Nor does the experience of this dimension require further development of any faculty, especially the intellect. Every person is presently capable of experiencing the spiritual dimension. The problem is, most treat it as an intellectual prize that must be earned, like an academic degree or a greatly sought-after scientific breakthrough. The spiritual awakening comes, not in waves to the masses, but like a thief in the night, through the intuitive portal of each individual.
There is widespread belief that if we continue to fill the intellect with spiritual concepts gleaned from the minds of others, we’ve joined a collective march toward enlightenment on a massive scale. This is simply not true. Thanks to social media, more people are indeed throwing around spiritual terms like so much confetti, but this is not proof that greater numbers are actually tapping into the spiritual dimension. It only means more have learned the language, the correct postures, and buzz words that suggest they are part of the pop culture of the spiritual set. In this arena, what passes for spiritual understanding tends to be as shallow as the false bonds of social media, where the course of most relationships is not determined by actual interaction, but by the click of a mouse.
Spiritual and intellectual progress are not measured by the same yardstick. The genuine spiritual awakening does not run with the crowd. What’s popular today is forgotten tomorrow. We’re reminded in the Gospel of Thomas: “There are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well. There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite” (#74-75).
Imagine two people in a windowless room, each with a flashlight. In one flashlight the batteries are low and the light is a dim yellow. In the other, the batteries are new and the beam is very bright. The natural comparison here is that of battery power. One sees their world through the dim light of low batteries. The other sees more clearly with batteries fully charged. So we have a scale of dim to bright with which to measure and compare.
Now imagine a third person who has left the windowless room and experienced the full brightness of sunlight. For them, the brightest of the two flashlights pales in comparison to the sun. They understand that the availability of sunlight has nothing to do with the level of charge in the battery of a flashlight. The one holding the dim light can just as easily step outside as the one holding the bright light. Fully charged batteries are not a requirement for stepping into the brighter world of daylight.
The room represents the self-image, the batteries and flashlights are the “brainpower” we associate with intellectualism. Spiritual development is not about charging the batteries of the intellect with spiritual ideas. It’s the experience of stepping outside the room. The intellect of the person who steps into the direct light of the soul is transformed by this experience. It is not a process of evolution but a condition of direct exposure. Nothing in the room can prepare one for the experience of sunlight. It is the understanding that the experience we seek is not of this world of rooms and flashlights. The belief that we’re making spiritual progress by charging our intellectual batteries is simply false.
The driving force behind the true spiritual awakening is often discontentment, dissatisfaction. We’ve seen enough in the room to realize it can never fulfill the yearning we feel at the soul level. We intuitively know there is sunlight beyond the confines of this room. We have observed those who believe that fully charged batteries are the epitome of human achievement, that, in their thinking, the concept of sunlight is but a myth, wishful thinking for those who cannot adapt to life in the room. We may not posses the facts to support what we know is true at the deepest level, but we know these folks are wrong.
We are naturally drawn to the outdoors because this, not the room, is our true home. The soul does not forget its Source. Its light seeps through this battery-powered realm of thought and draws us out of the cultural standards that use the room and flashlights as its basis of reality. The room, we instinctively know, is no more the center of the universe than was the earth, as all room-dwelling authority once believed.
Evolution applies to life in the room. Outside the room, the light of self-existence shines eternally, without shadow due to change. The light forever beckons every soul to open the door and come home.
Click for audio: The Truth About Spiritual Growth
The Jews marveled at it, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:15).
In her book, Lessons in Truth, Emilie Cady discusses two types of learning: intellectual and intuitive. Intellectual learning is the study and memorization of facts presented through things like books, the internet, or teachers. This is the most common and practical approach to developing skills and gaining the type of knowledge necessary for the workplace and for navigating through everyday life, especially in this age of the computer. Intuitive learning is not so straight forward, for it involves a direct, experiential knowing that the fact-hungry intellect finds difficult to trust.
In our quest for spiritual understanding, nearly all of us start with the intellectual approach of gleaning information from external sources. In my own case, it was Cady’s book that opened my spiritual eyes. Or so it seemed. In truth, the ideas contained Cady’s book actually confirmed an internal knowing that had been nudging me beyond the spiritual “facts” I had been given up to that point. She articulated what I knew was true. I simply lacked the intellectual skills to put it into words.
When our soul is aroused by something we read or hear of a spiritual nature, a kind of circuit is completed. We’ve intuitively arrived at a truth that is intellectually confirmed. In other words, you and I know more than we can say. We do not randomly respond positively to certain ideas. We respond to those ideas that we, in the quiet of our being, have already embraced. We may be reluctant to speak of them, for perhaps we do not yet know how to express in words what we know in our heart to be true.
Spiritual growth is not as much about adding new information to your stockpile of facts as it is about remembering what you already know at the deepest level. Your intuition has, in fact, been the guide that has brought you to this present point in your understanding.